Thank goodness for Michele’s electronic calendar. She called on April 28 after a nudge from her phone to wish me a happy anniversary. I was deep into the New York Times and Tony was cleaning the garage. We had completely forgotten.
I swung into action. I wanted to have a cake and a card to shame him with when he returned from sorting his tool. Heh heh. That could be anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour. I made it with time to spare, thanks to some Crayons and my annoyingly unfinished cookbook. I knew that sucker would come in handy someday.
In about the time it takes to make a cup of tea, I made two moist chocolate mug cakes in my microwave. They were honestly as good as a homemade cake from the oven. Once again I was struck by how dumb I was not to make a buck on my microwave cake technique, which is different from any I’ve seen.The secret is use an egg yolk instead of a whole egg, which is too large for a mug-sized cake, and to bake the cake at 50 percent power to slow down the activation of the baking powder. The result is a moist, tender texture identical to oven-baked.
This is the second or third mug cake I’ve made in quarantine. I’ve been dipping into my stash of orphan recipes for a sweet little something rather than bake an entire cake and deal with the weight gain later. Mug cakes are ideal for corona snacking. I’ve seen photos of friends’ trays of cinnamon buns and counters paved with banana bread and wonder how (or if) they resist the temptation to polish off the batch. With a mug cake, I don’t worry.
My miniature chocolate cake is excellent in part because I use good ingredients — butter, milk, vanilla, flour, etc. — instead of a mix. You’ll have to separate an egg and drag out the baking powder and measuring spoons but the batter goes together quickly and bakes in just two minutes in an 1100- to 1200-watt microwave.
Because I’m not wasting a scrap of food these days, I beat the leftover egg whites with sugar, added a half-cup of coconut, dolloped the meringue in puffy disks on a baking sheet and baked them slowly until they crisped up. They were delicious.
The meringues came later, though. After nuking the two chocolate mug cakes, I fetched our box of wedding keepsakes to look through and made an anniversary card with copy paper and Crayons.
Tony was surprised and happy when he returned from the garage. He was even happier when I admitted I had forgotten about our 13th anniversary, too. We ate the cake and reminisced about our corny ceremony at Cupid’s Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The minister was confused afterwards when he told Tony to tell what my name was.
“Jane Snow,’’ Tony said. No, her NEW name, the minister insisted.
At that point I jumped in to tell him Tony would be taking my last name. The guy’s mouth fell open. “Well, that’s a first,” he said.
CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. sugar, preferably superfine
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp. milk
Cut butter into pieces and melt on high power in a 12-ounce microwave-safe mug, about 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in sugar with a fork. Stir in cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt, mixing well. Add vanilla, egg yolk and milk and beat until very smooth. Scrape any bits off the bottom and beat again.
Microwave at 50 percent power for 2 minutes for 1000-to 1200-watt microwave ovens, or until the top is shiny but firm when pressed with a finger. If desired, immediately remove the cake from the mug by running a knife around the edge and inverting onto a plate. The texture will be slightly gooey while hot, and more typically cake-like when allowed to cool. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping if desired.
Note: If making more than one cake, microwave each one separately.
Beat egg whites until frothy. Continue to beat on high speed while slowly adding the sugar. Beat until stiff and glossy. Scatter in the coconut and beat briefly. Dollop onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, shaping into two circles about 1 inch thick. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour, or until golden brown and fairly dry. Eat out of hand like a cookie.
What I cooked last week:
Szechuan spicy noodles with ground venison; no-knead bread; chocolate mug cakes; pan-grilled boneless pork chop with port wine sauce and blue cheese-almond topping, honey-glazed roast carrots; Japanese pork curry; shepherd’s pie with ground venison and mushrooms; sautéed chard and dandelion greens with garlic and burst tomatoes, olive oil-fried eggs, craggy toast with butter; cottage cheese pancakes; charcoal-grilled ribeye steaks with horseradish sauce, broccoli rabe with garlic and olive oil, baked potatoes with sour cream.
What I ate from restaurants:
Salad, filet mignon and baked potato from the Brown Derby in Medina.
The recipe for khatchapuri bread in last week’s newsletter was a victim of bad editing (my own). The amount of shredded cheese should be 1 1/2 cups. Sorry for the confusion.
From Nancy H.:
Have you noticed any difference in the ground beef lately… say since the first of the year?
The reason I ask is because in years past, I never kept ground beef more than a few days because it would turn brown and sort of seep. Not very appetizing color and the fat portion seemed pale grey and really not fresh.
But now, selling at about 6.99 a pound, the ground meat is totally pink, very firm consistency and attractive in the same packaging even after a week. What could have been added or removed from the meat to keep it fresh even after days in the package?
I don’t buy ground beef often because I have a supply of ground venison in the freezer. Check the package to make sure it is entirely ground beef, with no soy additives. If a preservative was added, that, too, must be revealed on the label. In any case, I would advise you not to keep ground beef in the refrigerator for a week. If you must store it longer than three or four days, freeze it.
From Marlene H.:
I made the khachapuri this morning, and of course, shared pictures with the family. Thanks for making me the hit of the day! I have out-of-town family wanting me to teleport it to them. Haha!
Thanks for letting me know. I am crazy about that recipe, too.
From Anna S.:
I used to use the Mark Bittman’s no-knead bread recipe, too, until I found Jenny Can Cook and her 2-hour recipe. I’ve made it two times now in quarantine and love that I don’t have to plan ahead! Check out her other recipes and she has a YouTube channel. Jenny Jones, the old talk show host — who knew she could cook and is so fun to watch cook? https://www.jennycancook.com/recipes/2-hour-fastest-no-knead-bread/
I must try that 2-hour no-knead bread recipe. I checked it out and it uses lots more yeast than Bittman’s, which may be a problem for those like me who keep running out. Thanks for the tip, though. Speaking of yeast….
I wanted to let you know that The Ashery in Amish country has a good supply of yeast. My daughter and family drove down to get out of the house. They brought me back a good supply. Seemed reasonable, too.
From Jane in Loraine:
I’m in my mid 70s and most younger new bakers do not know about fresh yeast — found in the dairy case. One cube equals a 3-pack of dried yeast. Happy baking.
From Sharon C.:
There’s a little Mennonite farm market on the outskirts of Wadsworth that has yeast and a variety of flour in bulk. Homemade breads and pies, produce, eggs, Pearl Valley cheese, etc. also are sold. It’s also the place to go for garden and herb plants. Drive west out of Wadsworth on Greenwich Road (College Street when you are in Wadsworth) maybe 3 miles. It’s on left side on top of the hill across from Sky Park Airport and Filia Winery. Great little place…Elvin, Marvin and Anita are very accommodating. They have a sign out front announcing specials. Last week it said “We have yeast!”
Acme Farm Market
3054 Greenwich Road
Dear Patty, Jane, Sharon and others:
Thank you to everyone who offered to give me yeast or pointed me to stores that have it in stock. As soon as I got Sharon’s email I drove to Acme Farm Market (a favorite place to buy vegetables in the summer) and bought a 1-pound package of yeast, enough to last me a year.
From Pat S.:
You mentioned missing fresh ginger. Perhaps you aren’t aware that it stores well in the freezer. That’s where I always keep several knobs, ready to grate or chop as needed for recipes. What I miss most during this pandemic is fresh lettuce! I’ll remedy that by planting my garden soon.
I used to keep ginger in the freezer but got out of the habit because it doesn’t taste quite as good as fresh. I finally braved a supermarket last week and bought a lot of ginger. I’m going to plant a knob of it in a pot and grow my own with instructions I found at https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=how+to+grow+ginger+in+containers+epic+gardening&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8.